Push for Competency-based Learning Gets Pushback

Here’s something to think about: there’s almost no evidence showing online or the classroom equivalent, competency-based learning, to be effective….Both [studies] came to the same conclusion: the tech behind competency-based learning has advanced, but the concept itself has not benefited from these technical improvements and the educational outcome for students remain unimpressive.

Informative post by Seattle Education explaining the terms “competency-based education,” “virtual learning,” and “blended learning,” “personalized instruction” — and where the research on their effectiveness and the corporate funding of these reform initiatives part company.

Note: WorldView Software makes web-based digital textbooks, not teacher “replacements.”  And our interactivity is focused on Socratic learning, not on training students to respond to A.I.

Source:
24 Graduation Credits, OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal, and the Push for Competency-Based Learning

At the Intersection of Physical and Human Geography

Climate change requires us to think in new ways about how physical and human geographies intersect: how does the one impact the other?  How do human artifacts built for one set of circumstances react to the change in conditions?

Simon Dixon notes on Geography Directions:

We are undeniably living in the age of humankind, the “Anthropocene”, but we are still coming to terms with what this means for the planet and for ourselves. Researchers and policy makers have begun to consider the social and environmental impacts of our increased urbanisation. There are also efforts to understand the impact human activity is having on the surface of the earth more broadly – for example, through the creation of anthropogenic landforms like open-cast mines, and by changing erosion processes in rivers through human activity. However, so far there has been little attention paid to the way earth surface processes are slowly altering and morphing the fabric of our cities to create new, startling and potentially dangerous features.

As his blog post illustrates, using the subject of urban sinkholes, climate change is also a fruitful area of research for geographers and social scientists, because these processes are also happening at/impacting human artifacts and structures.  Remember the giant sinkhole in Japan late last year?

Hakataekimae Avenue near Hakata Station caved in on November 8, 2016, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka, Japan. The sinkhole is filled with water. Wikimedia Commons user: Muyo took this photo at the rooftop of Hakata Station JR Hakata City. CCA-SA 4.0

As this post was being written, the nightmare of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey began to unfold, as did the unusually intense monsoon rains in South Asia.  As it affects literally millions of people simultaneously, these events are an even more powerful reminder that physical and human geography intersect in ways that are increasingly unfamiliar.

Houston is a very flat city, as is explained in WorldView Software’s World Geography Case Study: Human Migration: Texas.  Its prosperity has come from the way humans have modified this surface, with railroads, ship channels, and pavement.  However, this makes it prone to flooding when its bayous cannot empty into the Gulf of Mexico.  In a prophetic 2016 series, Pro Publica and the Texas Tribune teamed up to explain why Houston was going to be in dire straits sooner rather than later:

As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes…

This lack of zoning regulations is one of the factors that made Houston America’s fourth-largest city, attracting builders to the area.  But zoning and environmental planning can be useful in a disaster: see WorldView Software’s Civics and U.S. Government Project: Environmental Impact Statements.  As Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic,

The natural system is very good at accepting rainfall. But when water hits pavement, it creates runoff immediately. That water has to go somewhere. So it flows wherever the grade takes it. To account for that runoff, people engineer systems to move the water away from where it is originally deposited, or to house it in situ, or even to reuse it. This process—the policy, planning, engineering, implementation, and maintenance of urban water systems—is called stormwater management.

On top of that, climate change enters into the picture when it raises the water temperature of the Gulf: higher temperatures make it easier for the air to contain more moisture and for storms to generate more power.  For example, precipitation totals have demonstrably risen the past several decades in the North Atlantic.

The intersection of geographies raises many questions that your students will have to answer in their lifetimes.  How would you deal with a disaster? Check out World Geography‘s Internet Project: The Devastation of Katrina for starting points on imagining yourself in a crisis.  Because the sooner we start imagining the unimaginable, the safer we can make our future.

[See this list compiled by The New York Times for reputable organizations if you want to help the Harvey victims.]


BulbgraphOnOffHelp ELL students acquire vocabulary by using the glossary’s audio files. Definitions + pronunciation = oral and textual word recognition.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

The Top 5 Missed Opportunities

Want to get your class thinking critically about history and politics in hurry? Try this question from the wonderful, unscientific poll of readers of The Neighborhood, conducted by Kendall F. Person:

What is the greatest missed opportunity, that could have altered the reality of race, as our foremost identity, before the idea of identifying ourselves and seeing others as Americans first?

Click the link to see their answers.

Using Software for Credit Recovery

There is a wonderful multi-part series on Slate’s Schooled section called “The Big Shortcut” on the advantages and disadvantages of using software for credit recovery. The first story is here.  In a nutshell, there are real pros and cons to consider if your district is going to use software:

Pros

  • easy to implement for administrators
  • easy for students to use
  • flexible use of time and space is great for students with other obligations
  • students can learn basic facts and skills
  • allows focus on content rather than socializing

Cons

  • boring and isolating
  • easy for students to game and/or Google
  • easy for students to “pretest” out quickly
  • difficult for students who are not self-motivated or who need structure
  • shallow content emphasizing breadth instead of depth
  • shallow assessment (as in multiple choice assessments vs. essays, presentations, or products)
  • linear presentation of material does not allow exploration

The most successful curricula heavily involve teachers and the class looks more like a blended class than computer lab.  Students get the actual teaching that they need while proceeding in an environment that is an alternative to traditional classes.

Therefore, the questions to keep in mind about using software for credit recovery (and credit acceleration!) include the following:

  • do you have subject-area teachers available to monitor, assess, and give assistance and feedback?
  • in social studies, is the software consistently updated? (For example, WorldView programs were the social studies component of Edmentum’s Plato Courseware for many years, but their version is no longer updated by us.)
  • is there a discussion component (either virtual or IRL)?
  • does the software’s content comprehensively cover your state’s standards? Look for software that has made it through your state’s textbook adoption process, which is a higher standard.
  • are there options for different types of assessment (not just multiple choice questions)? WorldView programs have different levels of multiple choice questions (factual, conceptual, chronological, and image), guided and un-guided essays, short answer questions, and projects.
  • how much repetition/randomization do the multiple choice questions employ? How often can students retake the test? WorldView programs even have multiple testing options for multiple choice questions: Study Questions are Socratic, allowing students two tries and give a mini-lesson explanation for the answer.  Practice Tests allow the student one try.  And coming soon are Mastery Questions that contain different question stems, answers, and distractors.
  • how secure is your IT system? how much of the internet can students access from within the program? do they have access to their own devices?

And so on!  Are you a teacher, administrator, or home-schooler using software for credit recovery or acceleration? Let us know what issues you’ve discovered in the comments.


BulbgraphOnOffUse the answers to the “Questions for Thought” in the overview as a note-taking guided exercise.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

PROGRAM UPDATE: Presidential Powers

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has new resources for learning more about the president of the United States.

Chapter 9: The Presidency has a new image with introduction and questions called Graph: Executive Orders, which shows the use of these orders in comparison by president from FDR through Obama:

Screenshot of Graph: Executive Orders

Chapter 9: The Presidency also has an updated overview and revised conceptual questions that reflect President Trump’s use of social media, and new glossary terms (which are linked from their context in the overview).

Screenshot of Chapter 9: The Presidency overview showing linked terms that are defined in the glossary.

BulbgraphOnOffUse our databank of study questions in a polling service such as in Google Classroom to do quick mid-stream assessments.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

#EdTech Posts of Interest

Two very interesting recent posts from blog Seattle Education about edtech — where it came from, and where it’s going.

computer motherboard

You cannot fully understand what is happening with Future Ready school redesign, 1:1 device programs, embedded assessments, gamification, classroom management apps, and the push for students in neighborhood schools to supplement instruction with online courses until you grasp the role the federal government and the Department of Defense more specifically have played in bringing us to where we are today.

— Source: “How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom?” by Seattle Education

Focus group results have been refined into sophisticated campaigns designed to convince us that digital education for children is superior to face-to-face instruction with a certified teacher. The goal? Put technology front and center in 21st century school redesign, and push human beings to the sidelines…If it’s innovative, it must be good. Personalization? Bring it on! And for students in underfunded schools with leaky roofs and tainted water, the arrival of technology brings a glimmer of hope that someone actually cares. But are we bridging a digital divide? Or are we setting our schools up for digital dehumanization down the road?

— Source: “Hybrid Learning, Cicada Killers & the Next Big Fight” by Seattle Education

As a very small social studies publisher, we see these developments from both ends: the DoD/DARPA connection is dominated by large companies and foundations with a particular guiding educational philosophy — one we don’t share.  We believe that learning requires true interactivity, and that true interactivity requires software that can respond to different interests.  Our design makes it possible for students and teachers to proceed as they see fit through our wealth of content, whether they want to get a basic grasp of a subject or explore it in depth.  Our software uses your web browser, which makes it as accessible as possible, to as wide a range of students as possible.

And while we provide in-program assessments at several levels, as well as reporting for teachers — although quite rudimentary compared to the meta data and para data described in the post! — we do not envision our software as a teacher replacement.  Everything we design rests on the assumption that a human teacher is guiding the learning process, and will be there to explain, assist, and evaluate.

It is possible to use digital educational tools that don’t demand souls as payment!

How Landscape Managers Think about Local Landscapes

By conducting qualitative interviews with local staff … we uncovered four different narratives – in other words, storylines – about what Cornwall’s landscapes are, how they are affected by climate change, and how one should adapt to these changes. These four narratives conceptualise the Cornish landscapes as:

  • the region’s basis for economic growth
  • an intermediate result of an ongoing human-environment relationship
  • a mosaic of wildlife and habitats;
  • and a space for production, e.g. of agricultural goods.

By identifying these different narratives, we show that although superficially often understood as one and the same thing, the concept of landscape means very different things to different actors concerned with its management.

Source: How Landscape Managers Think about Local Landscapes

[Such differing conceptions obviously have a great impact on the policy options preferred. Pick a landscape in your area and survey how people feel about it (U.S. Government Project: Conducting a Poll) and how those feelings would impact the uses to which the landscape is put (U.S. Government Project: Environmental Impact Statements).]